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John Brown, but I bow to the dispensation of Providence and Virginia, and take John Fremont. We have many bright spots on the battlefields of our history, but the brightest spot in our history is not on the battlefield. It was when a successful general, on the eve of victory a thousand miles from the Capitol, sheathed his sword at the bidding of the Government, and came back to submit in silence to gross suspicion. The charge of his bodyguard at Springfield was a gallant deed; but it falls before the Roman silence—the more than Roman submission of the general. We may say now to the proud courts of Europe, * Democracy breeds heroes.' Never, since Washington, has man been privileged by God to do such credit to republican institutions as that general at the height of his triumph, when he bowed his head and came back in silence. All hail, John Fremont ! — we thank you for vindicating Democracy.
“As a citizen, not as an Abolitionist, I am anxious which path Government takes in this war. I care very little about the technicalities of the Constitutionvery little indeed. I think Daniel Webster was a very bad lawyer, though a great statesman, when he said, “If one section of the Constitution is voluntarily broken, there is no obligation on the other to abide by it.” He knew well that, in strict legal phrase, the sections were not parties to the Constitution; and he knew quite as well that one wrong does not justify another. He was aware of the fact that the Constitution was no partnership-it was a Government resting upon the people; but he knew also that there did underlie this Constitution a great compact, a great compromise between rival institutions. He knew that in the time of 1787, the South, essentially a nobility, essentially an aristocracy-an aristocracy based on skin, an aristocracy based on race, based on money!—that they made a compact with the North, essentially a Democracy, and that that compact was virtually this : Slavery is a sin, slavery is an evil, slavery is a weakness; the "country is in perilous circumstances ; we, in fact, dare not trust God; justice seems to be a sin. Now we cannot believe that doing right is sinning—we cannot rise to the level of that Christianity of yours, but we make a compromise: If you let slavery be at peace, if you allow her to come under the normal and persistent influence of free ideas, if you will assimilate her among other institutions of the country, we grant you so much: we will advise the father to forget his children, the husband his wife, the mother to sacrifice her cradle—we will grant it all : and the compensation shall be, that you shall keep that system quiet under the broad influence of free ideas; and our reward shall 'be, that in the ultimate result, as an atonement for this temporary injury, our ideas may mould, assimilate, and gradually melt: away this abnormal institution. That was the essential compact. Our fathers said—We can't make justice the existing law of the land, but we will plant the seeds that shall produce it in the future. The South said—We will remain in, and we will keep quiet. The North said—We will trust to the inevitable, the irrepressible conflict of ideas. So we have gone along for thirty years. Now slavery breaks this bond. South Carolina takes her four hundred thousand bondsmen out of the reach of Massachusetts ideas : she breaks the pledge that she had made to Massachusetts. The Pilgrim State went down on her knees and returned Anthony Burns. What was the equivalent? The equivalent was, that if you leave slavery under our general influence it will melt away. Now South Carolina tries to take her four hundred thousand bondsmen out of the reach of this general influence. Well, last spring I said,
Go. I didn't then entertain the same opinion of the North as I do now, and that was the reason for my saying, ‘Go.' And I think to-day, that unless this war result in liberty, it would be better if she had gone-infinitely better. Unless within twelve months, or twenty-four, Maryland, Delaware, and half Virginia are Free States, and we be enabled to look east and west of this marble Capitol on free-soil, would to God that that building with this City of Washington had been shelled to ashes !
—for it is nothing but a bribe tending to keep the North quiet.
“And now I say, to all who are responsible for the future, the question is whether liberty or slavery shall
rule this great continent, and South Carolina knows it-she has the statesmanship to know it. She said to Massachusetts in 1835, 'Abolish free-speech. What she really meant was that she could not live with freespeech, and she cannot. The real question is today as to what extent she can trample free-speech under her feet. The South is as sincere as we are in this struggle. Ten millions of people grapple twenty millions by the throat, and literally, enthusiastically, and from the bottom of their hearts believe they are fighting for an idea that holds the salvation of the world. I honour South Carolina for her sincerity—there is no doubt as to her believing what she says : she wants to have her ideas govern the continent. Our fathers fancied those ideas and our own could be moulded together. They tried it, and I am willing, for one, that they should have tried the experiment for two generations—perfectly willing. They tried, under the Constitution, to see whether Massachusetts and South Carolina could live together. They united us in a bond of parchment. They put powder and fire into a cannon, screwed up at the muzzle, and hoped thus to assimilate the two. Mr. Webster died supposing those ideas had been assimilated, but the convulsion has come and caused an explosion. We stand to-day amongst the pieces, and, almost till now, the Cabinet say, and the Democratic Party say, and the weak-kneed Republicans re-echo the words : Put the pieces carefully back in their places-put the same powder, the same fire inside-say the Constitution backward instead of your prayers, and there will never be another convulsion. Now I don't believe it. It is no caprice. This war didn't spring out of the ground. It is nobody's fault-neither my fault nor John Calhoun’s. It is the inevitable result of the seeds which our fathers planted seventy years ago. It is a struggle between the slaveholders and the people. Every nation has faced it once in its life. England faced it when the Cavalier and the Puritan came in contact at Naseby; France faced it nearly a hundred years ago, and it is not ended yet. We have begun it. This is its epoch of battle. The South comes up to the southern bank of your Potomac, without either men, munitions, or money --nothing but an idea ; and the North goes up with men, munitions, money, and major-generals, and the only thing she lacks is an idea. This contest is one betwixt the slaveholders and the people,: it never will or can cease. Yonder Congress may make what truces they please—the Democratic Party may intrigue what compromises they please; but it never will cease, any more than any other war of ideas ever did, until one or the other goes under.